University Charges for Research

Article excerpt

TWO of the most prestigious universities in the United States have acknowledged that they overcharged the government for overhead expenses related to federal research grants. Both Stanford University and Harvard Medical School have agreed to return $500,000 billed to the government, but questions remain about millions of dollars in additional overhead charges.

The General Accounting Office and the Department of Health and Human Services are investigating the billing practices of some of America's other premier research universities, including MIT, the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Michigan, the University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins, and Duke. A congressional subcommittee has also launched a probe.

At issue are "indirect costs" that universities may charge the government in performing federal research. Direct research costs - like laboratories and researchers' salaries - are easily calculated. Less readily computed is the overhead for administrative services, library facilities, and utilities that universities can properly allocate to federal projects. …